Tuition

Good news, another law school has cut its tuition. For all of the… creative ways some schools are trying to cope with decreasing law school applications, tuition cuts still seem like the only thing that is likely to help.

But even as some schools start to cut, you wonder if tuition can ever be rolled back to the point where law school is cost-effective for the current generation of prospective law students. Law schools have been raising tuition, every year, for decades. Is cutting tuition now just like putting on perfume instead of taking a shower?

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She bet her future on this law school… and lost.

Law schools across the country are falling from grace now that the new normal has taken hold. Students are increasingly less and less interested in going to law school. From joblessness to insurmountable debt, there are just too many risks now associated with the J.D. degree to make it worth their while.

Many law schools are doing everything they can to entice new students to attend, and some of their disaster-avoidance plans — like initiating freezes and cuts to their egregiously high tuition rates — have been quite popular. Other law schools are trying to control costs by offering faculty and staff buyouts or conducting layoffs. Some law schools, however, are trying to pass the buck to their students.

Which top 100 law school is planning back-to-back tuition hikes and asking for state assistance to account for its enrollment woes?

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There’s another story today about the soft market for law school applications. According to the National Law Journal, law school applications are down 8 percent this year, and a shocking 37 percent since 2010.

We’ve discussed at length different theories for why this keeps happening.

But one law school is experiencing a boom in applications. It’s a new law school, one that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place. But it is doing one thing right that other law schools still resist: it’s dirt cheap….

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton

* Justice Sonia Sotomayor insists that her meeting with Hillary Clinton at Costco wasn’t planned. She just wanted to say hello to the “other lady,” as referenced by the woman at the store’s pharmacy counter. [Washington Post]

* Six U.K. firm leaders got together to talk about how to run their practices during challenging economic times. It turns out they’d prefer not to run their firms into the ground. [The Lawyer]

* Look out everyone, because Taylor Wessing, an international law firm that’s known for its IP, media, and telecommunications work, is storming both coasts of the United States in its very own dual office launch Biglaw blitzkrieg. [Am Law Daily]

* “It is a shameful canard that student loans and indebtedness are the cause of high tuition. They are not; they are the symptom,” says a law dean standing up for his students. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* If you want to go to law school and you’ve got an undergrad degree in a technical area like engineering, then congrats. You might stand to get a job after graduation. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

We know how much our readers love rankings, so this is probably a good time to let you know that the National Jurist has released its eighth annual list of the law schools thought to offer the “Best Value” to law students — usually a list dominated by public schools with a smattering of private schools. The magazine also released its second annual list of the “best value” private law schools at the same time.

The Best Value ranking system typically takes into account a law school’s tuition (weighted 25 percent), students’ cost of living expenses (10 percent), students’ average indebtedness upon graduation (15 percent), the percentage of graduates who got a job after graduation (35 percent), and bar passage rates (15 percent).

What’s so exciting about this year’s list? For starters, the list of the overall “Best Value” list includes the most private law schools to date, in part due to the fact that average indebtedness is down since law schools started tossing out scholarships like Mardi Gras beads just to convince students to enroll.

Let’s take a look at the 2014 “Best Value” rankings…

Please note the UPDATE on the second page of this post.

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Law school’s tombstone?

* Federal judges still have financial allegiances to their former firms that are reported on their mandatory annual disclosures. At least one appellate judge — Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit — made a killing after confirmation. [National Law Journal]

* After “a challenging 2013,” Bingham McCutchen is leaking lawyers like a sieve. Fourteen attorneys, including nine partners, recently decided to leave the firm, and they’re all headed to different Biglaw locales. [WSJ Law Blog via Reuters]

* Just one day after Donald Sterling was declared “mentally incapacitated,” he filed a lawsuit against the NBA, seeking more than $1 billion in damages. Skadden lawyers are stripping off their warm-up suits to take it to the court. [USA Today]

* This Am Law 200 firm thinks it figured out a way to help women combine their careers and home lives — by hiring a role model/mentor with an almost six-figure salary. Good idea or bad? [Dallas Morning News]

* We’ve got some breaking news for our readers from the “no sh*t” department: Law schools are competing to cut costs based on a shrinking applicant pool, but tuition is still quite unaffordable. [Houston Chronicle]

* Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and alumnus of Dickinson Law, RIP. [Onward State]

Another school has surveyed the landscape of legal education over the next several years and recognized that, to paraphrase Jimmy McMillan, the tuition was too damn high. Reduce the sticker shock and get a leg up on peer institutions. And most importantly game the ATL Rankings in the process.

This is not the first school to take steps to cut back on tuition, but a school making this kind of significant cut sends a signal to its peers that the game has changed and the new blueprint is, well I don’t want to say “value” because you’re still sending students into an uncertain job market, but at least “bargain hunting.”

So who joins the ranks of tuition-slashing institutions?

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A Supreme cat fight?

* Footnote fight! Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been clashing with quite a few of her fellow Supreme Court jurists lately, aside from Chief Justice John Roberts. She recently inspired the wrath of Justice RBG herself. [New York Times]

* After months of being poked and prodded for cash, 60 former Howrey equity partners have reached clawback deals with bankruptcy trustee Allan Diamond, and it looks like a few of them agreed to pay pretty hefty sums. [Am Law Daily]

* Here’s a headline we could’ve told you was coming: “The US lawyer bubble has conclusively popped.” It’s not a terribly good decision to attend now, but if you do, people who can’t pay you need your help. [Quartz]

* Cutting law school tuition may be a good idea to attract more students, but in the long run, it could hurt the schools, says Moody’s. Aww, let us shed some tears for those poor law schools. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Crim Law prof not guilty of… crime. Stephen Smith of Notre Dame Law was acquitted on a misdemeanor invasion of privacy charge, and the felony battery charge he faced was dismissed. [South Bend Tribune]

* The University of Arizona will be the first school in the U.S. to offer a bachelor’s degree in law. The degree is being marketed to people who eventually want to have lots of law-related debt. [National Law Journal]

Back from the big NALP conference, back from Seattle, happy to be back in New York City. The five boroughs came up a lot at the conference thanks to the big move by Brooklyn Law School to cut tuition by 15% next year.

If I may summarize the reactions from other schools about Brooklyn’s cut (I’m paraphrasing):

  • F**k those motherf**kers. It’s still super-expensive. Go STATE!
  • Actually my school did something very similar. [Elie explains why their school is not similar.] Well, that’s just your opinion, man.
  • Can somebody wake me up when Yale does it?

I expected that other schools would be a little annoyed with Brooklyn. Schools are already facing a financial crunch given the sharp drop in new law students; not many want to take on the additional financial burden of across the board rate reductions. I recently appeared on CNBC with Brooklyn Law Dean Nick Allard, and he explained that Brooklyn Law sold off some of its capital assets to afford this. I noted that not every school is in the position to do that.

But I didn’t expect some prospective Brooklyn Law students to also bitch about the reduction. I guess when you expect dumber people to subsidize your education, having that taken away from you is jarring…

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, one New York law school just decided to cut its yearly tuition by a whole lot — 15 percent, actually. That’s right: a top 100 law school is reducing its tuition, across the board, in a move that will take it from being the second-most expensive private law school in New York City to being the cheapest of its kind.

Of course, by “cheapest,” what we really mean is “still prohibitively expensive,” but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is a trend in the making for the rest of New York City’s law schools.

So, which law school is helping its students take on a little less debt?

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